The trophy ends up in the right hands

At last, it’s over. Even the most fanatical and football-obsessed of us can get at least some elements of a balanced life back after the horrors of having to watch 2 or even 3 games a day for over a month. The editorial decision was made not to add to GGW site during this period, since there was already more than enough to read, absorb and think about. However it is now back to business as usual with all the usual tittle tattle of the summer close season to report.

But before normal business resumes, this article will reflect on the main issues arising from the 34 days invested in watching the 2010 World Cup. The abiding recollection of this World Cup will be that the best team won it. Spain built up improved form in their last few games and proved their clear superiority to both Germany and Holland, the other two best organised, best prepared and laid out sides. The other enduring feeling will be a sense of profound disappointment at the general poor standard of play and the almost complete lack of adventurous attacking football.

For the 5th World Cup out of the last 6, the SISIF betting book showed a healthy 4 figure profit from its investments. Large sums of money had been laid out on 4 bets; one big one each on Argentina and Spain to win outright, and two smaller savers on both of them to meet Brazil in the final. SISIF had got on Argentina at 10-1 before their Qualification was ensured. For a while it looked a good bet but it was not to be. They did show attacking flair in several games but ultimately predictable defensive defects let them down. Maradona left out Javier Zanetti despite having no other right back and that cost them dear. The makeshift replacement, centre back Otamendi (bizarrely preferred by Maradona to having Burdisso and Samuel together in the back four) cost them the crucial first two goals in the Germany and when that crunch came they lacked the inspirational genius to triumph despite having Messi, Tevez, Higuian and Aguero around. The notion that the best by far group of forward players (these four plus Di Maria, Diego Milito and old man Palermo) would ensure the best team proved naïve.

Brazil let SISIF down badly. They were not fancied to win but the soft December draw should have ensured they made the Final where either Argentina or Spain would have outclassed them. They let a tough-tackling Holland knock them off their stride in their only real test. The decision to rely on pedestrian Felipe Melo and Gilberto Silva in midfield rather than more talented men like Hernanes summed up Dunga’s conservatism and caution. And in the end after choosing to live that way rather than more gloriously, Dunga died that way, by Melo’s crude sword and Van Bommel’s more subtle one.

Fortunately the SISIF book was saved by Spain who comfortably outplayed the second best team of the tournament Germany in what was probably the most memorable game of the tournament. The actual Final was a footballing disappointment as Holland brutally tried to disrupt the Spanish rhythm by physical over-aggression but in the end class told, justice was done and the best football playing team won, with a beautiful pattern of passing and possession play asserting itself sufficiently to get the winner. Germany were the pleasant surprise of the tournament, playing modern attractive fast counter-attacking football. Low outthought both Capello and Maradona, playing to their weaknesses and his own team’s strengths. Unfortunately for Low and Germany, Spain don’t give the ball or the spaces away as carelessly as England and Argentina and their more coordinated use of the ball made it far harder to break back against them. So the thinkers were outthought and to general and their own surprise were also outfought. But they were a credit to football and lit up the tournament, with Ozil and Muller showing class and intelligence.

Uruguay, traditionally the third South American force, outranked Brazil and Argentina this time. Tabarez a wise manager had the courage to play three forwards, two of them Forlan and Suarez world class. With two attacking full backs, two strong centre backs, two powerful holding midfielders they were almost very good. If only Mazurkiewicz and Francescoli could have been here now in their prime, Uruguay might have won it. These three teams Spain, Germany and Uruguay were the three star performers of the tournament, the teams that reminded the world what good football could do for the spirit. Holland almost joined them but their anti-football tactics employed in the Final disqualified them from full praise. Cruyff after rightly dismissing Brazil as pedestrian and not worth crossing the street to watch, then had the integrity and bottle to say he was ashamed of Holland and their spoiling approach. Their two best players Sneijder and Robben  did prove once again the crass stupidity of Florentino Perez in deciding they had no place in his Real Madrid, and the pusillanimous weakness of Pellegrini in not insisting they stay. One moment of class combination between the two of them almost gave Holland an undeserved World Cup and over the past 10 months they both earned high placings in any list of the season’s top ten players. Two league titles, two domestic cups, two Champions League medals one a winners and one a runners-up, and two World Cup runners up medals  is not a bad haul for two men rejected in the summer by a rich and arrogant President.

 There were very few great games, ones that will live in the memory and warm the heart in cold winters to come. Germany featured in three of them, pleasing Scotsman against abject England, out manoeuvring Maradona against Argentina and coming up short against Spain. In the other half of the draw only Brazil versus Holland could claim top rank status as an absorbing spectacle, with Uruguay and Ghana providing other memories that will last.

So only 5 of the 64 games passed muster. Not a great return for the investment of a month of your life. This sad total is a reflection of the generally poor quality of the South Africa World Cup.  2010 will be remembered as not a great vintage, the worst since 1990.

Ghana and Paraguay excelled themselves, while South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Portugal, Chile, Slovakia, New Zealand, Australia, Slovenia, Ivory Coast and Switzerland got pass marks taking into account resources and expectations.

Three teams competed for the most dire flops award. For Italy, from holders to duds in 4 years it was just a case of aging, like a boxer who suddenly loses it and is there to be knocked out by any punk bold enough to hit them. The biggest fiasco was France. SISIF is very clear who is to blame for the French disaster. The President of the French Football Federation and his cronies who saw at Euro 2008 how dire France had become under a Domenech who had lost it and lost his players. The form and performances in the early World Cup qualifiers were so dire and the rumblings from disaffected players so strong that there had been several late opportunities to correct the mistake not to fire him in summer 2008. Incredibly they chose to ignore all these opportunities. Then even more incredibly, 3 weeks before the tournament started, they cut off their own man’s cojones with a rusty razor blade in announcing he would not survive South Africa, even if he won. Have they never heard of Risk Analysis, or Conflict Resolution Strategy. It is impossible to conceive of a more disastrous or doomed set of decision making processes. No fiction writer could create such incompetence. From that point on though, any schlock writer could have predicted the horror stories that would inevitably come. At least in Laurent Blanc, they now have a manager with the skill, talent, integrity and humility to create a new and decent French dawn.

But the prize for most ineptness must go to England. Any team that goes into a World Cup with four forwards called Rooney, Heskey, Crouch and Defoe was never going to do well in the World Cup. Between them this quartet scored only as many goals as Argentina’s sixth choice forward Martin Palermo who was on the turf for less than 20 minutes.

It is so typical of England that they have not had the courage to get rid of the manager who led them to such a miserable performance. Of course Capello has to take a major share of the responsibility for England’s unimaginative tactics and sterile play. When you are paid £6 million a year, far more than any other international team manager, then you have to own responsibility for the outcome. To pay him so much, to receive so little in return, then to decide to keep him on will ensure England fail to learn the lessons available to them and will pass up the chance to become a Germany or a Holland, far less a Spain. At 64 Capello is too old to change, to learn to adapt. While it is true Del Bosque looks older than Capello he is actually4 years younger, and is a relaxed libertarian who is comfortable letting Hierro and Xavi run the show under his benign guidance. Capello by contrast is a rigid man with hardening of the managerial arteries, the consequences of which will intensify over time. If they have kept him on for financial reasons after their inane insane decision to commit themselves to him for a further two years needlessly taken before the World Cup began, then shame on them and hell mend them. And indeed Capello an honourable man in his own way would almost certainly have walked away for nothing if they had had the bottle to say he had failed them and they had no confidence left in him. If they genuinely think paying him £12 million over the next two years will improve the English football team radically then even more hell mend them for a gross mis-assessment.

 Eight teams failed even to get minimum pass marks and deserved the conclusion that they were not good enough to grace a World Cup tournament   Greece, Denmark and Serbia; Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria, Honduras and North Korea. In a rational world FIFA would reassess whether 32 teams are indeed perhaps 8 too many and maybe the tournament should revert to 24 finalists. But the greed and corruption around FIFA and the main Confederations will mean that none of the many turkeys will be asked to vote for Christmas extinction. And so a bloated 32 it will remain.

The next post will examine if the World Cup will be likely to affect the way the world’s best club sides play in the season to come and whether there are major tactical or stylistic lessons likely to be derived for implementation.

 Celtic supporters will have got little Added Value from their club’s connection with the World Cup. Ky Sung -Yeung  did show  some glimpses of why Koreans rate him so highly, as a good bet for the future. And Celtic fans who watched South Korea to see him in action will have been pleasantly surprised at the signing of useful right back Cha Du-ri, the Asian Maicon. GGW will soon provide a fuller story about this signing and his famous father Cha Bum Kun but he should prove an interesting asset next season

Who needs him when you have Samaras

Neither Braafheid, despite his Final cameo, nor NGuemo gave Celtic fans much reason to regret they will not be returning to Celtic Park for more underperformance. Samaras used his World Cup opportunity to prove that you can fool some of the people some of the time, if they don’t look too closely for too long. At one point Atletico Madrid were making serious noises that they wanted Samaras, to provide cover if they lost Forlan. You have to laugh, but alas no formal bid was pursued. 

Efren Juarez failed in his first attempt to integrate into European football but is undoubtedly a player of talent, who could do a job for Celtic at full back or centre back.